Kow Laz Noz

Peter Kowald / Daunik Lazro / Annick Nozati
Instants Chavirés

This disc represents the outcome of an improvised concert from February 2000 featuring double bassist Peter Kowald, saxophonist Daunik Lazro, together with the voice of Annick Nozati. Having had to resort once more to Google Translate I apologise in advance for misunderstandings and mistranslations. Comparing the French to Google’s English I can recognise the correctness of it but suspect that the nuances of language have been overlooked. The liner notes start with Nozati saying that she does not sing for the sake of it. Across the range of her singing there is an urgency, a knowledge that maybe there isn’t that much time to say it in. The notes go on to inform us that a few months after the recording the singer was dying following a heart attack, this information though has to be tempered when the notes continue on to say that she knew her husband would soon die. I bring this up more to say that you can hear in the quality of her voice a presage of things to come, a sense of despair, at times resonating as if from the depths of the earth. There is a mournfulness, the grieving of a thousand women over the loss of a loved one. The notes quote her as saying “I’m not here to carry a tune” and you can believe it.

The disc is a living testimony to the art of a singer no longer with us. The control that she demonstrates is exemplary. She identifies within her own qualities, a quiet voice, even when screaming, whilst, arising from the quietest moments a storm can suddenly develop, a cataclysm. For a moment feverish and lived, as if life depended on it, a living being who is not encumbered by false pretence or half measures. The next second, deep reflection, quickly followed by the refuge of experimental vocal expression, squeaks and animated babbling. To me the crowning glory of this disc is Nozati’s solo number ‘L’invisible’, in which the sole accompaniment are provided by occasional handclaps from herself. Over the course of nearly fifteen minutes she expresses rage and reason, at points primal, from what seems madness comes ‘O For The Wings Of A Dove’. If I could bottle this I’d carry it around with me and have a pick-me-up as required.

This swift movement from one style to another is redolent throughout the disc and exercised by all three protagonists. The musicians consistently evolve with individual independence, pushing different tempi, emotions, intentions, but not at the expense of the whole. At times they touch base and it is these points of assembly that invariably end up providing moments of beauty, allowing the listener to draw breath from the helter-skelter playing that has often preceded it. A case in point is the second track ‘Kow Laz Noz’ which sees them wandering off and returning to meet up again. Over its course the vocals cover humming, sephardic/folk/flamenco influences, scat style, Flo and Eddie at their extreme, before returning to resemble a close relative of Berio’s Folksongs.

Of course to accomplish what she does, Nozati needs space to fly. There has to be an understanding between her and the other musicians that allows this to happen. A delicate balancing act between when to support, when to challenge, when to rein in, and when to let loose, needs to be negotiated. Her compadres do this admirably. Daunik Lazro’s contribution should not go unmentioned. The first track has him veering from deranged snorts to the most delicate playing I have ever heard from a saxophone. The textures that he elicits from his instrument are many and varied. In lesser hands the saxophone can often start to grate under the weight of a history that has firmly pigeonholed it, but not here. His energy and inventiveness allow it to be shown as possessing more expressive qualities than it is often given credit for. Peter Kowald also demonstrates his abilities to the utmost, frenetic attacks are followed by the most delicate bowing and melodic runs.

Considering this was their only outing as a trio, the understanding between the three at times is pretty impressive. We get the concert faithfully reproduced with running order intact and the evening divided amongst solo singer, duets and trios. Personally, if I was going to be selfish, I’d like a whole album of the quieter reflective moments, but I am more than glad that this special evening was captured in its entirety.